every once in awhile, i pick up a book by an author i don’t know, based on either critical acclaim, a snazzy cover, or a whim. every once in awhile, i am pleasantly surprised by the book i’ve bought; it lives up to its praises and more, and i run out and buy everything this author has written. discoveries like this are like opening a secret doorway that leads to a mystical universe.

chindi was not one of these books.
i had seen jack mcDevitt’s books around for awhile, had read the positive blurbs from all sorts of well-known publications (sci-fi and otherwise). the cover of chindi had stephen king (whom i like) claiming that mcDevitt is the logical heir to asimov and arthur c. clarke. maybe king was saying this about one of his other novels. based on this one book, i’d call mcDevitt the Dean Koontz of sci-fi.

the thing that makes this all the more disappointing was that i burned through the first half of chindi in one night. i don’t recall the last time i did that. it started with a bang, did some unexpected things, set up a great mystery, and then fell flat. i spent the last half of the book waiting for something else to happen, and was rewarded by thin characterization, absolutely unbelievably stupid characters doing insanely stupid things over and over and over, and a climax about as exciting as watching family ties reruns.

the one other thing that really irked me was that this had been characterized as "hard science fiction," which says to me that the author does their best to get the science right. while mcDevitt does that in many cases, there are others where the suspension of disbelief required was far more than any reader should give. as one example, in one cliff-hangar situation, he has to expose one of his characters to deep-space vacuum for a few seconds without ANY protection. they come out of it with some broken blood vessels after their magic energy shield kicks back in. puhleeeeeze. if your lungs didn’t explode, i bet about half the cells on the surface of your skin would flash freeze and burst.

did i mention that this book sucked?

to cleanse my palate, i had to start reading a Culture novel by Iain Banks that’s been sitting on my shelf since i finished Consider Phlebas a few months back. if you want to read great sci-fi, read Iain Banks or Frank Herbert or Gene Wolfe. leave jack mcDevitt in the store at the airport.

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